The Incarnating Child, Joan Salter
Hawthorne Press, 1987.
A book I have found invaluable for guidance in a variety of areas concerning Leo’s development. This book is highly regarded in the anthroposophic community as one which clearly describes a range of areas of concern for new parents and their babies.
A spiritual perspective of the ‘incarnating child’ is established early on and lends new insight into the great event of birth. Whilst this point of view will not be shared by all readers, the book approaches questions in a practical manner and any reader with an open mind will be sure to gain significant insight into aspects of their child’s growth and development probably not considered beforehand.
The book begins with a description of the threefold being of man, which is in a way, the foundation for viewing and understanding the development of the child, which runs through all anthroposophic discourse. The tone is set by describing enlightened modern parenting as using the gems from the past as well as the scientific knowledge gained over recent decades to develop the art of parenthood, that is, a new art to be practised consciously.
Preparing the body to conceive and care for the pregnant self physically and spiritually is considered in the first several chapters. The first six weeks of baby’s life is considered next with topics ranging from environment, to bathing, to massage to the use of slings. The incarnating process is initially discussed right through to age 7 and children’s pictures are used to illustrate just how this ‘coming in from the cosmos’ occurs.
The book then goes back to the more practical aspects of raising a baby, feeding, weaning and detailed descriptions of the characteristics of fruits, grains, vegetables, eggs, milk and honey, nightshades, mushrooms and legumes, including instruction on what to introduce and when. I have found this knowledge incredibly valuable with navigating Leo through his introduction to foods. It is entirely unconventional however, describing milk and honey as polar opposites:
“In the bee we see a creature whose whole orientation is opposite to the earth to that of the cow. The bee belongs to the elements of air and warmth while the cow nature seems inextricably tied to the earth. We could sum up by saying the cows’ milk helps the child in finding an orientation to the earth while honey sustains the older person in finding a connection with heaven. Both are essential foods, according to age.”
If you are prepared for this angle, you will find these chapters most enlightening!
Sense impressions of the child’s are also closely considered, including rhythm, warmth, touch, eyes and ears, television, movement, balance and the sense of another’s ego. Other varied topics of discussion also include, the use of fairy tales, festivals, action games, dolls, play and toys, imitation and repetition, gnomes and fairies and nursery rhymes – many questions may be answered if you have at all wondered at the importance placed on such things at your local Steiner playgroup or kindergarten!
The book goes on to address topics such as crying, immunisations, the use of playgroups, challenges many parents face, music for young children, how to make your own rebozo and how to knit a pony!
The importance of how to establish good habits within the family home becomes the central theme as we follow the child’s growth to three years and beyond. Be prepared to initiate changes in your own life while reading this book as the entire culture of the family home is described as being crucially important to the raising of children. No doubt this book will offer some perplexing ideas at first as well as refreshing tokens of habit you will happily integrate into your family home. A book of constant referencing for us!